Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Guns in Schools

Life comes down to timing.  For my 16 year old defendant yesterday, his timing couldn't be worse.  He brought a gun to a local high school back in October.  Yesterday was his sentencing.

Why was the timing so bad?  The tragedy that took place at Chardon High School in Ohio yesterday.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the students and family members affected.  The tragedy, unfortunately, highlights the danger of weapons in schools. 

Possessing a loaded firearm in New York State outside your home or business gets you between 3 1/2 and 15 years in prison for a first time offender.

Bring a loaded gun to school?  3 1/2 to 15 for a first time offender.

Bring a loaded gun to school as a 16, 17, or 18 year old?  Anywhere from probation to 15 years in jail.  That's right, a defendant toting a gun into a school is eligible for a sealed record and probation while the guy walking down the street gets a mandatory 3 1/2 years if he's at least 19 years old.

Should penalties for guns in a school be stricter?  There's special crimes in New York for drug dealing on school property.  Should there be special laws for guns in schools? 

The only additional law is for a 14 or 15 year old.  If a 14 or 15 year old brings a loaded weapon to school, the case is tried in supreme court, not family court. 

So what happened to my defendant?  One year in jail.


  1. I've often wondered about the range in sentencing. 3-1/2 - 15 years is a mighty big range. How does a judge decide in a case like that where the particular defendant falls on the range? And is this kid bound to serve the full year or is there credit for good behavior?

  2. With any defendant, a judge looks to the person's criminal history, type of crime, the victim's injuries and wishes (if any), and how to use the sentence as a deterrent.

    With 16,17, 18 year old defendants - the judge looks to the same factors, but can give youthful offender treatment (sealing record and giving probation) if they find some factors that mitigate the crime. An example is that the gun wasn't used or threatened against anyone.

    A defendant given a local sentence (1 year or less) serves 3/4 of the time. So he will serve 9 of the 12 months minus the three months he's already served.

  3. Well it's kind of like the 9-11 thing. Something bad happened and now we have so much screening and strict penalties. With school shootings so prevalent these days, yeah, I think it should be a very serious offense to bring a loaded gun to school--in any state.